TRAINER Tony Martin looks set to serve effectively a three-month suspension of his licence after the trainer and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board had their respective appeals heard today against the sanctions he was handed for breaching anti-doping rules last year.

It was revealed in December that the Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer was given a suspended six-month suspension of his licence after Firstman tested positive for lidocaine following a win at Dundalk in January 2023.

This was the third time in the space of four years that one of the trainer’s horses tested positive for a banned substance.

The suspension of Martin’s licence was suspended for two years (subject to Martin not breaching any anti-doping rules in the interim), and he also was hit with a €10,000 fine.

However, Martin lodged an appeal against the severity of the fine imposed, and the IHRB too made its own appeal against “the decision of the referrals committee in respect of the undue leniency of the cumulative sanctions imposed” on the trainer.

A spokesperson for the IHRB confirmed that an outcome to the appeal was delivered by the appeals body on Thursday, and that the original sanction's conditions have been changed.

“The Appeals Body determined that the original six-month withdrawal of Mr Martin's licence would remain, but with just three months of the six months suspended, and that the amount of the fine would remain unchanged," said the spokesperson.

“Mr Martin's period of suspension will begin on 15 May 2024.”

According to the IHRB’s publications surrounding the case in December, Martin had told investigators that Firstman had been prescribed the anti-arthritic drug Cartrophen by two veterinary surgeons in advance of the Dundalk race but it was found that this was not responsible for the presence of lidocaine, a metabolite of cocaine, in the post-race sample.

Unable to detect a source for lidocaine at his own yard, Martin suggested that his horse could have ingested the substance at the racecourse stables, possibly due to the racecourse management using recycled paper bedding.

This theory was disputed by both Dundalk Stadium officials and IHRB senior veterinary officer Dr Lynn Hillyer, who said that, while it was likely the exposure to lidocaine took place within hours of the race, the amount present in the horse's system was far in excess of what would be expected if ingested through bedding.

In arriving at its decision last year, the Referrals Committee of Susan Ahern, John Murphy and John Maguire took cognisance of the trainer's early admissions and full cooperation with the investigation. They also recognised that removing the trainer's licence "is likely to have severe implications for his stable yard and may put it in jeopardy."

However, they also took Martin's previous two breaches of the anti-doping rules since 2019 into consideration.

Full written reasons for the Appeals Body's decision have yet to be delivered after today's appeal.